Me First and The Gimme Gimmes / Russian Tim and the Pavel Bures – Live in Vancouver (09/22/22)

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Me first and The Gimme Gimmes - Vancouver

Me First and The Gimme Gimmes / Russian Tim and the Pavel Bures

Live in Vancouver, BC (09/22/22) - Harbour Event & Convention Centre

Sometimes all you need is an old favorite with a new twist – that’s what Me First and The Gimme Gimmes are. Dubbed “the” cover band of all cover bands, this punk rock super group takes classic songs and punkifyies them.

These are classic songs in the widest sense – because even if you don’t know the song, you know the song. They have been pumped through the radio airwaves for the last thirty/forty/fifty plus years. Songs that play in the speakers as you walk down the mall, songs that litter soundtracks and movie scenes, songs that define pop-culture. As much as your “punk rock cred” may beg you to say otherwise, you know these songs. They’re engrained in the North American DNA of pop-culture.

That recognition is what Me First and The Gimme Gimmes rely on and they have fun with it, because ultimately Me First and The Gimme Gimmes are fun.

Fronted by the ever constant Spike Slawson of The Swingin’ Utters, the band always has a revolving door of backing musicians. As they made their way into the Harbour Events Centre in Vancouver on Thursday to kick off their North American Tour, the lineup included Stacey Dee from Bad Cop/Bad Cop and Jake Kiley of Strung Out on guitar, Pinch from The Damned on drums and finally the famed CJ Ramone on bass. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of the who’s who of punk rock – yet this was not a punk rock show.

Despite claiming to be from San Francisco, Me First look more like they’re trying to entertain degenerate gamblers off the strip in Vegas. There is an undeniable charm to their presence, as if a down on his luck magician is trying for one last trick. Not only was the stage surrounded by a wall of screens shining out static gold curtains, but the ceiling rig also has monitors – ensuring a constant golden glow poured down from the ceiling upon the crowd. These bright lights made the venue seem larger than life; a fact that was even more apt as this particular venue is an abandoned casino that shut down several years ago.

The band themselves were decked in matching golden, silk dress shirts and black ties. Spike’s microphone was draped with gold tackles. The entire set up was a character and personification, and Spike reveled in it. A sense of arrogance and unmatched confidence flew through him as he strutted and danced through renditions of Over The Rainbow, Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard, Rocket Man, Straight Up, and many, many more. As is common in any setting, but even more so at a sweaty punk rock show, the crowd went wild for tracks like Jolene, Sweet Caroline and I Will Survive.

Only at a Me First show will you see Mohawk-wearing punks with DOA jean jackets singing along to John Denver‘s Leaving on A Jet Plane; yet as I said in the beginning: that’s the point. These are songs that people just inherently know and no self-respecting punk can help but sing it back when the tempos are increased. Screw the cred, this is fun. The cheesy banter, the bright golden lights, the matching costumes – Me First and The Gimme Gimmes put on a show that felt like it belonged in the abandoned casino that is now the Harbour Events Centre. At the end of the night, it was fun; and I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.

As for the opening acts, Me First were proceeded by some local punks in The Highsides and Russian Tim and the Pavel Bures. Unfortunately, I missed The Highsides but made it in time to see local favorites Russian Tim and the Pavel Bures. At this point, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen them live, yet Thursday night was probably their strongest set. The bigger stage was to their advantage, as they built off the energy of the larger crowd and successfully had everyone warmed up. Russian Tim was his standard ball of energy, somehow mixing a persona of Craig Finn, Chris #2 and Fat Mike all in one. Flailing and jumping around, Tim led the group of Russian ex-pats who all donned matching soccer jerseys and sing in Russian. We may not know what they’re saying, but the positivity and energy is unmatched. Tim’s love of crowd participation always leads to joyful unity and by the time they end their set with their standard cover of t.a.T.u‘s All The Things You Said, the crowd was successfully amped up and ready to sing along to even more covers with Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.

The night was, to quote Russian Tim, a great success.